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Friday, June 14, 1957

Sherrill Family Roots Go Back To 1830’s Here

Excerpts from The Story of Allan A. Sherrill, Great-grand­son of Amzi Chapin, Sr., Pion­eer Settler of Northfield Town­ship, written by Marie Murphy, Feb. 16, 1939. 

Far back in the fields west of Brandywine road, in Sagamore Hills, stand two farm houses, within a stone’s throw of each other. On the right is the home of Allen A. Sherrill, built by his grandfather, Amzi Chapin, Jr. in 1846. It is a veritable storehouse of early Americana containing as it does, heirloom furniture, old books, and ancient letters, diaries, and other treasured papers relative to family history. There are 15 great leather bound scrapbooks of absorbing mater­ial about pioneer days. It is doubtful if there is a similar collection housed under one roof, outside of an historical museum, in this vicinity, as these relics, cherished by Mr. and Mrs. Sher­rill and their sons, Frank and David Thomas. 

The Sherrill home was built where it stands today, before Brandywine road was graded. There was an old stage coach highway connecting Hudson and Cleveland by way of Brandy­wine Mills and the “14 miles lock”, which passed close to the site. It is still visible in a nearby pasture, although it was aband­oned many years ago. 

In 1831, Amzi Chapin, Sr., Mr. Sherrill’s great grandfather, came to Northfield from West Moreland, Pa., settling some­where in the neighborhood of the Hawthorn farm. Of Welsh descent, he was a most remark­able man, religious and con­scientious, a fine cabinet maker and a talented musician who taught singing in schools in a number of states in late 1790’s and early 1800’s. He specialized in church music. A prized book of anthems, painstakingly copied by Mr. Chapin with a quill pen, the notes perfectly formed, and the verses beautifully written, is among the Sherrill collections. It is thought to have been writ­ten in the 1790’s. 

Mr. Chapin’s diary, covering the period of 1790 to 1835, con­tains an account of his travels from Hartford, Conn., as far south as North Carolina, and over into Kentucky, during his teaching career. Most of the time he rode horseback, although one trip to Kentucky was made by river. 

The first mention of his work as a cabinet maker, according to his diary, appears under the year 1796, while he was in Ken­tucky. From that period on, he made innumerable pieces of fur­niture, from a massive secretary to candle stands. He also writes of making “bass violins that sold for $20.” On his travels, he carried his own violin with him, and a number of singing books.

The first winter of his arrival in Northfield, he formed a tem­perance society, which grew to an active membership of 200. In the Fall of 1832, he wrote pro­posals to form a Congregational church, and the church was or­ganized the next year. His diary contains the note, “September 8, 1834—Lent the Committee ap­pointed for building our meet­ing house, $50.” This building is now the Federated Church.

Among the pieces of furniture in the Sherrill home, made by Mr. Chapin, is a great secretary desk, its original finish intact, containing two secret drawers cunningly concealed. The top is filled with ancient books, am­ong them the volumes of Seed’s Sermons, published in 1773, an old Latin grammar of slightly later date, and a number of McGuffey’s famous books. (The ori­ginal secretary was even larger than it is now. One bottom sec­tion had to be removed to let the secretary fit into the Sherrill’s Living room.)

When the Chapins came to Northfield, Western Reserve College was a young growing in­stitution of learning at Hudson. Amzi Jr. was enrolled as a stu­dent, under the regime of Presi­dent George E. Pierce. Tucked between the leaves of a scrap­book is a catalogue issued by the college at that time. Here too, are old letters received by the Chapins addressed to “Brandywine Mills Post Office, Portage County”. Summit Coun­ty had not been formed. No en­velopes enclosed the letters, the address was written on the plain back of the paper, which was folded, and sealed with wax. Neither do any stamps as we know them, appear on the let­ters. At that time, postmasters printed the amount of postage on the letter.

Allen Sherrill’s mother was the daughter of Amzi Chapin Jr. After his death she took her mother to South Dakota for her health, and there she met Dana E. Sherrill, who was homestead­ing government land. A romance developed, and he sold his land holdings, and came back to Ohio with the mother and daughter. Dana Sherrill was descended from New England Puritan stock; his great-grandfather, seven times removed, Dana Thomas, was an active participant in the Boston Tea Party. Allen was born the following year, and his sister Mary nearly two years later.

He recalls as a child, accom­panying his father in the spring flood season to Brandywine Mills to have feed ground. It was an all-day event, for far­mers came from miles around, and each had to take his turn. He remembers too, the telegraph office in the Washington Inn, a big attraction to small boys. It was operated by the Bliss Brothers, and connected with the telegraph office at the Mace­donia Depot.